Instructional Support oversees both Section 504 and Special Education Services for students identified with a disability who require specially designed instruction. Some of these students may also require accommodations and/or related services. Section 504 provides accommodations in order for a student with a disability to access their education.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
Every student with a disability that is eligible for special education has a right to a free, appropriate program of instruction and supportive services designed to to meet his or her individual needs. Special education services are provided to South Portland students by certified and/or licensed professionals or supervised support staff at no cost to the parents. Students receiving special education are encouraged to participate in the regular school program wherever possible. Special Education is governed by both Federal Regulations (IDEA) and State Regulations (MUSER, Chapter 101).
Special Education Process
The special education process has several components.
The first component involves a Child Find process to determine which students may have a disability that would require a referral to Special Education and leads to working with an Individualized Education Program Team (IEP Team).
The second component includes individualized evaluations of each referred student and a discussion of the result by the IEP Team, which is comprised of school staff and parents. The IEP Team is then responsible for determining whether the student with a disability is in need of special education services, and if so, what services are appropriate for the student’s educational needs. Once these determinations are made the IEP Team writes an IEP for the student.
Special Education Parent & Student Rights
The special education process affords special rights to students with disabilities and their parents through "due process" protections, these include:
- An IEP with goals
- Due process
- Annual meetings
- A reevaluation every three years
- Transition planning
Procedural safeguards are designed to protect the rights of parents and their child with a disability and, at the same time, give families and school systems several mechanisms by which to resolve their disputes. To learn more about these safeguards, translated into multiple languages, please visit this Maine Department of Education page.If you suspect your child has a disability requiring special education services, you can request a referral from the Office of Instructional Support at 207-871-0555, or you can contact your child’s building principal.
Section 504 is part of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to combat discrimination against individuals with disabilities in services, programs and activities administered by any entity that receives federal funds, including public schools. Section 504 provides protections for qualified individuals with a disability. For a student to be identified under Section 504, in most circumstances the school must conclude that the child has a physical or mental disability that substantially limits a major activity. These students may need specific services and accommodations in order to access the school program, but it may occasionally be true that an eligible child under Section 504 is not in need of any interventions at the present time. Eligible students receive an annual Accommodation Plan with input from teacher, staff, parents and student.
Students Protected under Section 504
Section 504 covers qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving Federal financial assistance. To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to: (1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (2) have a record of such an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment. Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
What is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity?The determination of whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity must be made on the basis of an individual inquiry. The Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(i) defines a physical or mental impairment as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. The regulatory provision does not set forth an exhaustive list of specific diseases and conditions that may constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of such a list.
Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulations at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(ii), include functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. This list is not exhaustive. Other functions can be major life activities for purposes of Section 504. In the Amendments Act (see FAQ 1), Congress provided additional examples of general activities that are major life activities, including eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Congress also provided a non-exhaustive list of examples of “major bodily functions” that are major life activities, such as the functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. The Section 504 regulatory provision, though not as comprehensive as the Amendments Act, is still valid – the Section 504 regulatory provision’s list of examples of major life activities is not exclusive, and an activity or function not specifically listed in the Section 504 regulatory provision can nonetheless be a major life activity.
If a parent or guardian believes that their child might be a candidate for a Section 504 plan, then the first person to contact is the principal of the child's school. If for some reason you are not satisfied with the principal's response to your request, then please feel free to contact the South Portland School Department’s Section 504 Coordinator, Kathy Germani, the Assistant Superintendent at 207-871-0555 or firstname.lastname@example.orgFor more information please visit the Federal Government Section 504 Rules and Regulations.
Section 504: Process & Rights
The school district is obligated to inform you of decisions about your child and of your rights if you disagree with any of those decisions. The School Department has notices related to the rights of students and parents under Section 504.
For details regarding the process and your rights under Section 504, please contact your child's school principal.